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Military Service, Political Ambitions Shaped McCain’s Career

Sen. John McCain's acceptance of the Republican nomination marks the culmination of a long political career -- one full of both successes and bitter disappointments. Jeffrey Brown profiles McCain's path to the GOP nod.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, who is John McCain? And how did he get here?

    Remember, last week at the Democratic convention in Denver, we reported on Barack Obama's early years in Chicago. Well, tonight, Jeffrey Brown reports on a defining part of John McCain's life.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Sept. 2, 1945, the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri is witnessed by Admiral John "Slew" McCain, here on the right. His son — also named John, but known as Jack — was a submarine commander in the war and would himself become an admiral and commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific for part of the Vietnam War.

    If there was one sure thing in the life of John Sidney McCain III, it's that he would pass through here: the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. This was the family heritage, and McCain's military experience would help define the candidate we see today.

    At first, though, young John McCain had other ideas.

    ROBERT TIMBERG, Editor, "Proceedings": He did not want to go to the Naval Academy. He wanted to go to some place like Princeton that had, among other things, lots of opportunities to meet young ladies.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Journalist Robert Timberg is a Naval Academy graduate and Marine combat veteran of Vietnam. He now edits "Proceedings," the U.S. Naval Institute's magazine, and is a McCain biographer.

  • ROBERT TIMBERG:

    Ultimately, he accepted it. I mean, he lived in an ether of honor, and patriotism, and naval service.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    As a midshipman, McCain at times seemed to do his best to get thrown out of the academy. He developed a healthy reputation for mischief and graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.

  • ROBERT TIMBERG:

    I don't know if you've noticed, Jeffrey, when you drove in here, but there is a wall around this place. And, you know, you really weren't in those days allowed to do much of anything at night unless you went over the wall. And John McCain did go over the wall.

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